On Monday 15th October I attended the launch of the Tracking Arts Learning and Engagement (TALE) research findings at the House of Lords in London. TALE is a collaborative project between the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), Tate and the University of Nottingham that has been funded by Arts Council England (ACE). Over the last three years we have been looking at young people’s experience of arts and cultural education in schools and how cultural organisations can support teachers and students to have a deep and rich engagement in arts activities.
The findings from this study could not be more important. Over the three years the researchers at the University of Nottingham gathered 6,000 responses from students aged 11-18 and 63 teachers. The findings show the many ways in which arts and cultural learning in the classroom is valued by young people and the unique role paid played by arts teachers in nurturing students’ engagement in the arts. More than a third of the students said school is the only opportunity they have to engage in arts activities. I urge you to read the findings which can be found here in more detail.
One clear and consistent message comes from the thousands of students who took part: arts and cultural learning taps into their imagination, creative instincts and self-worth in ways that other lessons do not. Arts subjects are shown to significantly help young people develop their own opinions as rounded individuals ready to contribute to their community and the wider world. The research also highlights the positive impact that arts-rich schools have on fostering independent thinking and creativity, confidence, well-being and empathy.
However, the TALE research was carried out against a background of funding cuts and a rapid decline in the number of arts teachers and hours spent on arts subjects in state-funded schools in England. At the House of Lords event which was titled ‘Time to Listen’, Tate’s Director Maria Balshaw joined with Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director to call for five changes to ensure that arts and culture features in all young people’s education. These changes include ensuring that the arts have parity with other subjects at key stage 3 (when pupils are aged between 11 and 14) and the provision of an Arts and Culture Premium for all children in schools to make sure all students in primary and secondary schools are able to access arts and culture out of school.
The House of Lords event also saw the launch of the ‘Why Study Art’ film which has been produced by Tate that showcases key figures from the arts and business speaking about the critical importance of studying the arts. It’s worth looking at this too to gain a sense of the many ways that engagement with art at school has played a vital role in these creative people’s development.
It has been a very rewarding process being involved in TALE. From the initial meetings with Jacqui O’Hanlon at the RSC and the researchers at Nottingham (Professors Pat Thomson and Christine Hall) to plan and submit the bid to ACE, right through to the drafting of the document that summarises the findings and the organisation of the final event. I have learnt a great deal about how collaborative research can be undertaken and the value of cultural organisations working with academic partners to explore issues that are relevant to both. Most importantly this research has reaffirmed my view that research can be a vehicle to draw attention to key issues within and beyond the art museum.
On a slightly different but related note, Tate is inviting applications from international colleagues to take part in the third Tate Intensive programme. This week long programme (7 – 12 July 2019) will be exploring the need for imaginative change within museums and galleries. Do take a look at this too.